A koala and wombat have become the best of friends during lockdown at an Australian zoo
- Elsa the koala and Hope the wombat have become best friends while the Australian Reptile Park was shut due to lockdown restrictions.
- Keepers at the park would put Hope in the koala enclosure while they cleaned her area. She met Elsa and they instantly bonded.
- The marsupial mates now hang out every day, and always greet each other with a kiss.
- A video of the pair snuggling and nuzzling was shared on the park's Facebook page, where it has received more than 235,000 views.
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Lockdowns around the world have kept many loved ones apart, but at one Australian zoo, it's helped forge a beautiful new friendship.
Elsa the koala and Hope the wombat became inseparable while the Australian Reptile Park was shut for months due to the pandemic.
Hope and Elsa are so close that keepers at the park - which is located in Somersby, New South Wales - now call them "lockdown BFFS" and let the adorable friends hang out together every day.
Hope and Elsa were instantly intrigued by each other when they first met.
Keepers at the park would put Hope in the koala enclosure while they cleaned and added fresh leaves to her area. She soon met Elsa, and the pair became fast friends.
"Elsa and Hope were seen interacting frequently," a spokesperson for the park told Insider. "Keepers would watch on in awe as the pair bonded and greeted each other with a daily Eskimo nose kiss! It didn't take long for them to become the best of friends!"
The wombat is a close relative to the koala so "it's not all that surprising that the two have become close friends," Australian Reptile Park director Liz Gabriel told Insider.
And that's not all Hope and Elsa have in common.
"Hope and Elsa both had a rough start to life," Gabriel said. "But they are both growing into happy and healthy animals."
The marsupial mates both had to be hand-raised by keepers at the park to ensure that they were going to survive.
Elsa stole Australia's heart back in October when the park released a video of the newborn koala, revealing that she had to be cared for around the clock.
Elsa's mother had mastitis - an infection of the breast tissue - and couldn't feed her.
So park curator Haley Shute took Elsa home, feeding her seven bottles of formula a day for months before she became independent enough to eat eucalyptus leaves.
"Koala joeys require 24 hours of care and supervision," Shute told Stuff.co.nz in October. "I can't tell you the last time I've had a proper night's sleep."
Now Elsa is better than ever and sharing the spotlight with her new friend. An adorable video of the pair snuggling and nuzzling was recently shared on the park's Facebook page, where it has received more than 235,000 views at the time of writing.
And Shute is ecstatic that Elsa and Hope have become best mates.
"Elsa is just a bit over one year old now, and it's been an amazing experience watching the world love her as much as I do," Shute said. "Hope is a little ray of sunshine, and we just knew the two of them would enjoy getting to know each other!"
"It's a very special friendship these two have formed, and I can't wait to see it continue to blossom."
The public can now visit both Elsa and Hope at the Australian Reptile Park, which opened its doors again this month after being shut throughout April and May.
Shute said she hopes that Elsa and Hope's bond will help bring attention to the fact that Australia has "the worst mammal extinction rate on the planet."
"Elsa and Hope are great ambassadors for Australian wildlife, and our wildlife needs all the help it can get," she said. "Our iconic koala is sadly experiencing a large decline in numbers due, in part, to the tragic bush fires we had earlier this year. They're on the trajectory to be extinct by 2050."
You can help Australia's koala population by donating to koala hospitals and rehabilitation centers, signing up for a koala adoption program to help pay for its care, or planting a koala food tree if you reside in an area where the marsupials live.
- Read more:
- An Australian wildlife park welcomes its first baby koala after the devastating bushfires
- Adorable photos of animals meeting each other at zoos and aquariums to get you through the week
- A group of orangutans and otters living together at a Belgium zoo have formed an unlikely friendship
- A museum let a group of penguins wander its empty rooms, and they couldn't take their eyes off the paintings
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